Body Language, Believability, and Garnering Support

Body language and energy are often the deciding factors in winning or losing a client, a donation, or a job interview. You are successful when you are aligned: your body language and energy are in sync with your words. As potential donors or supporters, we feel the spirit of your conviction and we experience it in your stance, gestures, eye contact, and energy.

In large measure, your success comes down to a sense of believability conveyed through body, voice, words, and energy. Your tone of voice is sure and steady. The gaze of your eyes is alert, present, and directed to your audience. Your stance is solid and you’re on both feet. Your movement is loose and fluid communicating that you want to converse; that you have something to share. Your arm gestures are open. You are in conversation.

Believability and body language are the deciding factors in venture capitalist pitches, according to Harvard researcher Amy Cuddy. In her book Presence, she referenced findings from a study of 185 venture capitalist presentations noting that the people that were hired to raise millions of dollars were chosen based on “believability” factors- did they seem honest, enthusiastic (yes, they were nervous but they had good energy), comfortable (they felt at ease and relatable), and confident. How they were deemed most believable? Primarily non-verbal cues!

Consider this for yourself: You know what it feels like when someone “walks her walk.” You feel her conviction, you sense that she believes what she’s saying, and you notice yourself feeling relaxed and paying attention. You begin to have a whole body experience, not only taking in the words that are being said. The speaker’s energy is infectious, you’re sitting more upright and perhaps you’re even leaning in to hear more.

Now imagine qualities that communicate “not believable.” Eyes glancing around the room, not looking directly at the audience, hands in front of body, feet stuck in one place (as if movement is terrifying), speaking without pause such that the audience doesn’t get to feel the impact of your words, speaking too fast or too softly, leaning away from the audience.

Most of us have times and habits that communicate “not believable” even when we believe in the cause or person we’re promoting. There are common triggers that set us off course (the idea that we’re selling something, the pressure of high stakes, feeling self-conscious, thinking we have to be perfect, knowing what we don’t know…). These triggers show up in our body language and speak all too loudly for us – and they can get in the way of our success.

The good news is that you can strengthen your believability through practice particularly out loud and in front of others. And the great news is that positive energy from an audience of peers is infectious and will serve you well when you’re truly trying to cultivate or land your next supporter. Come to Foundation Center San Francisco on February 25 for “How Does it Land: Learn to Body Language and Voice to Strengthen your Message” to get front of room and face-to-face experience and coaching to strengthen your delivery and believability.

laura paradis-headshot

A former lobbyist and fundraiser, Laura Paradise provides coaching to help people find their right work. As a life/career coach, Laura helps clients throughout the career development process. She places particular emphasis on promotion skills. Laura offers individual coaching and the Oakland-based Interview Club, a forum where people get constructive guidance, practice and feedback to sharpen their interview skills. She says she can help anyone land an interview or deliver a winning sales pitch so they can get the offer they’re after.